The cauldron is out in Sochi Olympic Park. This time for good. The Paralympics have just ended, thus closing the book on the journey that was Sochi 2014. It started seven years ago. Fourth of July, 2007. I remember watching the decision to award Sochi these games on a laptop from a living room in California.
So much has changed since then. I graduated high school and college. I attended my first Olympics in London and now I can say I’ve been to both a Winter and Summer Games.
The city of Sochi has changed too. In the span of seven years, Vladimir Putin spent over 50 billion dollars to construct new arenas and stadiums. Mountains were carved into competitive courses and the little resort village of Rosa Khutor was born.
These Olympics were different for so many reasons. The warm weather, the political backdrop, the very real fears of terrorism. These were the Winter Games literally built from scratch. It felt like you were on a movie set at times and the authenticity of the host city and its culture was lost in the elaborate venues and hotels that didn’t exist two years ago. Still, the Olympics did what they did best, make the entire world care about sport, if only for a few days, and let the athletes write the narrative.
Over the last ten days, I’ve shared with you some of my best and favorite memories from the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Here are a few that I didn’t get to spend much time on, but deserved at least a mention.
Home away from home
The time zone difference made keeping up with American sports very difficult. Being nine hours from the East Coast just made things awkward. I had to watch the Syracuse vs Duke game in the middle of the night in my hotel room. At least I had friends to watch the Super Bowl with the next morning.
The Hotel Thing
While many of the early media reports from #Sochi2014 centered on the weird accommodations journalists faced when they arrived, I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have to deal with colored water, broken door handles, or random visitors in their rooms.
Instead the Marriott had its own quirks. They never really did fix my broken television that couldn’t get a signal, leaving me to watch the Games on my laptop through third-party streaming websites. The fitness center never really opened until the last week and a half of our stay, forcing me to walk over construction sites and through cold, damp hallways just to get a few minutes on the elliptical. Some requests from the hotel staff were lost in translation (literally) and getting your food or check took longer than forever.
I guess everyone had their share of #SochiProblems. Now they are just #Memories.
These were the first games where everyone had a front-facing camera on their phones, making this the “Selfie Olympics”. Everyone took one. Including myself. It’s nice to be hip for not having friends that can take your picture.
I’ll Never Understand Figure Skating
Figure skating can be a beautiful sport to watch. The jumps and twists that these athletes make are nothing short of amazing. But having it all make sense when it comes down to who wins gold, silver and bronze is something I’ll never grasp. Apparently a failed quadruple jump is worth more than a clean landed triple. Performances that I was sure would earn a medal ended up placing ninth. I guess the whole objectivity is part of the fun. But I don’t think I’ll waste three or four hours trying to figure it out. Maybe next time I’ll watch this one from the IBC.
“This is how I pictured and envisioned this moment”
You never know when you’re about to see greatness unfold. That’s the beauty of the Olympics. At any moment, an athlete you see might just be days or hours away from fulfilling a dream that they’ve had their entire life. Even something as ordinary as a press conference can become the stage for an athlete to focus their thoughts before their life-changing experience.
Mikaela Shiffrin was just weeks away from her 19th birthday when she first answered questions to the press at the Mountain IBC. She was just days away from winning her first ever Olympic gold medal in the slalom. And while we didn’t know how she would win at the time, she told us that she had this entire experience all planned out.
I was lucky enough to be at this press conference. I even asked her a question. It’s a small thing really. I’ve been to many pressers before. But there’s some perspective to this one. It’s our only shot to figure out what she’s thinking before she takes the run of her life. She looked so calm and prepared for this. She even said that talking to the press was all part of how she envisioned it.
It’s Mikaela Shiffrin’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Sleds go really fast
I had the pleasure of working really closely with the sliding venue at these Olympics. One of their producers needed help from us in the SportsDesk with getting some pre-produced pieces together. With the United States doing very well at Sanki Sliding Center, I ventured out to the venue myself. If you ever get the chance to catch the event in person, I suggest doing so at least once. It’s incredible the amount of speed these athletes get. Don’t blink, you might miss it.
Get ready for some word vomit. In no particular order, I will also remember…
The snowboard halfpipe won by a man nicknamed iPod, the many peanut butter sandwiches I had that reminded me of home, the endless slices of pizza I had in Rosa Khutor, the American volunteers I interviewed at the Alpine venue, the fun I had at the four-man bobsled, the rivalry NBC had with the CBC across the hallway at the Mountain broadcast center, the amount of air competitors got at the men’s aerials competition, seeing Ukraine win women’s biathlon relay gold as the country’s capital was being burned to the ground, almost missing out on getting sound from Ted Ligety after the men’s slalom, the long bus rides up and down the mountain, the awesome desserts NBC provided at the IBC, the frenzy of receiving a feed from the SportsDesk at the Coastal Cluster, the number of monitors and equipment that OBS uses, the long lines at McDonalds, the non-alcoholic beer served at venues, shooting stand-ups in Rosa Khutor, Russian vodka, celebrating Jason’s birthday by singing “Build Me Up Buttercup”, drinking Siberian Crown beer every night, Chicken Caesar Salads and Chicken Quesadillas, and the really long flight home.
Thank You, NBC
I never take any opportunity that I’ve had in my career for granted. Most people never get to go to an Olympics and now I can say I’ve been to two. I want to thank NBC for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime once again. It was such a pleasure to work with each and every individual that I met, some for the first time and others once again.
Broadcasting an Olympics is far from an easy task, farther than a flight from New York to Sochi. It’s incredible how high the quality of each broadcast is and it’s no wonder why NBC sends an army of crew members to each Olympics.
My favorite and lasting memory of these Olympics will be the individuals that I worked with and the friendships I’ve made. I think of the Olympics as a separate universe that exists parallel to our everyday lives back in the states. Working in the mountains isn’t easy, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do it alone. These are some of the greatest people in the industry and I hope to see them again soon…
The Last Word
People ask me what is it about the Olympics that I’m so obsessed about? Why does a two week festival of sport consume my life? And why would I leave an on-air job to spend a month in Russia?
I’m reminded of these answers every two years. The answer might take more than a blurb in a blog post to explain but I’ll put it briefly. It is, without a doubt, the greatest event in the world. No other spectacle creates so much emotion, buzz, or even controversy. There’s a reason why cities around the world spend time just to bid on the Games and then spend seven years to prepare. No one outside Russia knew that Sochi even existed before these Olympics. Look at what they accomplished in seven years.
Athletes spend their entire life for that one moment. Whether it’s just to walk into the Olympic Stadium during the Parade of Nations or to win a medal. And each Olympics creates a novel of memories that will last a lifetime. That novel might be different for each individual, whether they were a spectator, a journalist, an athlete, or just a production associate like myself. But I wouldn’t trade that novel for anything in the world.
The Olympics are the greatest event on Earth. Why would I not want to be a part of that every two years?
I’m already counting down to Rio 2016.